A downloadable mod

This is an "ambient mod" that combines the sounds of Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II with environments from Valve's Half-Life 2 games.

To be very clear, in addition to the games you must also provide your own digital copy of this album - see below for a link to buy one.

Select an album track from the game's chapter select menu and you will load into a story-and-combat-free audiovisual sequence from one of Half-Life 2's levels. I'm not sure if this counts as "machinima" or not - you can look around freely at any time, and I think of it more as an environmental mood piece than a film. Make of it what you will.

For this first release of the mod, only the album's first track, commonly known as "Cliffs", is available. I will add more tracks as I find the inspiration and energy to do so. The tool setup I have built for this mod makes it reasonably easy to do a track - see the Technical Details section in the readme - but I can't promise any timeframe on when new tracks will be added. The album has 24 tracks total (25 if you count the UK vinyl release, 26 if you count the recent digital edition bonus track) and that's a lot to get through, but that is my ultimate goal.

This mod is in some sense a follow-up to my earlier Ghosts I-IV for Quake mod, which pairs the 2008 Nine Inch Nails ambient album with id Software's landmark 1996 first person game Quake.

See this page for an explanation of SAW2's unusual track organization and naming scheme.

More details in the included README file.


A digital copy of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II in MP3 format, which can be purchased here:

(NOTE: I've seen a report that the 320kbps MP3 available from that download doesn't play properly in Source engine, so unfortunately you may need to re-encode your MP3 to a lower bitrate. Very sorry about this tech issue but I'm afraid there's not much I can do about it!)

Steam PC (Windows, Linux, or macOS) copies of Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, and Half-Life 2: Episode Two, which can be purchased all together here:

You should also install the free Lost Coast expansion, as one of the later tracks will use it:

StatusIn development
CategoryGame mod
Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars
(4 total ratings)
AuthorJP LeBreton
Tags3D, artgame, Boring, First-Person, Music, Open Source, screensaver, Short
Average sessionA few minutes


saw2-hl2-mod.zip 21 MB
Version 12 Nov 18, 2019

Install instructions

1. Install the required games in Steam.
2. Find the "steamapps\" subdirectory where you have Steam installed. If you're a Windows user with a typical Steam install, this will be something like "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\".
3. Check if you have a subdirectory within steamapps\ called sourcemods\. If you don't have one, create it.
4. Unzip the saw2\ directory in this ZIP archive to this sourcemods\ directory.
5. Copy your MP3 music files to saw2\sound\music\. You'll know you're in the right directory if you see a file called "mp3_tracks_go_here.txt".
6. Name these music files track01.mp3, track02.mp3, track03.mp3 etc.
7. In your Steam library, right-click "Half-Life 2: Episode Two" and select Properties
8. Click "Set Launch Options..."
9. In the field, add -game "saw2", where "saw2" is the full path, in quotes if the path has a space in it, where you extracted the saw2\ directory - eg "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\sourcemods\saw2" - and then click OK.
10. Launch "Half-Life 2: Episode Two" from Steam.

Development log


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Dicovering this over three years late, devastated that it never got past track one. Lovely stuff for that track, though

Set it all up, and rebought the album via the MP3 Format linked in the description, but didn't work. Those you've linked are 320 kbps and doesn't seem to be working for me either.
Really cool thing though! 


Any idea why the track wouldn't be playing? The mod seems to be correctly installed and I have moved and renamed all the mp3s into saw2\sound\music. Camera moves around when I start the game and I hear the UI audio but no music. Music volume setting is at max. Nothing immediately obviously wrong in the console.

Hmm, strange. If the track simply isn't found, the error you'd see at the dev console would be "Failed to load sound "*#music/track01.mp3", file probably missing from disk/repository", so if you're not seeing that error then I'm not sure what could be wrong.

My MP3 rip of track01.mp3 is 44KHz stereo 256kbps CBR, is yours any different? Early on I tested with a variety of MP3 encoding settings and Source Engine seemed to handle it fine...

I was using the 320kbps, LAME-encoded mp3s off of the Warp Records site. They're huge and I guess Source doesn't like them because it worked with a mp3 I ripped off of youtube.

I thought this was great by the way! Would love to see more.

Oh gosh, that's quite a bummer about the Warp MP3s but it's good to know. Thanks again for playing! I hope to add more tracks at some point.

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Cliffs manages to take a set of maps from Half Life 2 that I'm intimately familiar with and restructure them into something that is hauntingly beautiful, despite the fact that I've seen these props, textures & environments probably hundreds of times. Extremely good, and I can't wait to see what you do with the rest of the album.

ouaf, already this is a fantastic recontextualisation of the spaces and technology of the half-life universe. love it to bits.

i was very confused until i realised i'd muted the music volume in all the half-life games.

can't wait to see more, when you have the time & energy.